Holy Sweet Red Pepper Paste! I think we have a winner here…folks!
We grabbed a bottle of Massa de Pimentão from our local Portuguese (and Brazilian) grocery store. Massa de Pimentão (sweet red pepper paste) is a Portuguese pantry staple. Though primarily used in dishes from the Alentejo region (south-central Portugal), this paste/condiment finds its way into a multitude of Portuguese dishes and is a mainstay of the cuisine. In it’s most basic version, it is a combination of red peppers, coarse salt and garlic, though more elaborate versions of the paste are also common. David Letite in his book The New Portuguese Table, has a recipe for an “amped-up” version of this paste. which can also be found here online. It really does make for a fantastic marinade when you are looking for a spicy kick to your meat or poultry…and especially so when you are doing your sixth Buffy-rewatch marathon and are not feeling particularly inclined to spending more than ten minutes preparing your dinner. Just marinate the meat overnight in some Massa de Pimentão and then turn on the broiler. Now that wasn’t so hard…was it?
The name of this recipe is something of a misnomer actually. Notwithstanding the “Alentenjo style” in the name, the dish is said to have its origins in the Algarve region (Southern Portugal), but all that is now just a matter of history! This is one of the more popular dishes in Alentejo and uses the ubiquitous-in-Alentejo sweet red pepper paste! Legend also has it that since the pigs in Algarve were mostly fed scraps of fish…the catch of the day…the clams were added to the dish to mask the fishy taste of the meat!
This dish is served with fried potatoes, and I must admit, it makes for a great accompaniment. So grab a bottle of a nice Douro red wine…and, if you are like me, stretch your legs, sip on your wine, dig into your nerve-tinglingly-spicy food and watch Buffy kick some sweet vampire ass…
Recipe for Pork with Clams, Alentejo Style (Serves 4)
(adapted from Ana Patuleia Ortins’ Portuguese Homestyle Cooking)
For the Marinade (marinate overnight at least)
Massa de Pimentão (home made or store-bought) – 2 tbsp
Hot sauce (or piri piri sauce found in Portuguese stores) – 1 tsp
Dried crushed red peppers (optional)
Black peppers crushed – 1/2 tsp
1 bay leaf crumbled
Garlic cloves – 4
Cilantro – A few sprigs
For the rest of the dish
Pork Tenderloin – 1 lb (pork butt is typically used, but we prefer the leaner version with tenderloin)
White wine – 1 cup
Little neck clams or cockles – 2 dozen (find the smallest clams you can,) cleaned
Potatoes – 2 large, peeled and diced
Onion – 2 medium, chopped
Tomato – 2 medium, peeled and diced
Olive Oil – 3 tbsp
Grind all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor. Cut the pork tenderloin into 2 inch cubes and mix well in the marinade. Add 1/2 cup of the wine. Store overnight, covered, in a glass or ceramic bowl and refrigerate.
The next day, heat the oil in a deep skillet and brown the marinated pork on both sides. Pork tenderloin cooks quickly, so take care not to overcook. Set aside the browned pork. In the same oil, with the leftover pork drippings, add the onion and saute for 2-3 mins till golden brown. Add the tomatoes and let the onion-tomato mixture cook for a few minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine to the mixture and then add the browned pork to it. Let simmer for about a minute on med-low heat. Then place the cleaned clams on top of the pork mixture, turn the heat to high, cover and let cook for about 10-15 mins.
In the meanwhile, fry or roast the chopped up potatoes with some salt and pepper.
When the clams are fully opened, the dish is ready. Toss out the unopened clams. Scoop out about half of the clams and add it directly into the dish. Leave the remaining in their shells.
Serve with the fried potatoes on the side and garnish with cilantro